Several times on Thursday, the day the Calgary Flames reported for fitness testing ahead of the 2014-15 National Hockey League training camp, Devin Setoguchi referenced the player he used to be.
Once upon a time, the Taber, Alta., native was a one-time 30 goal-scorer in the National Hockey League with the San Jose Sharks, who has nearly 500 games under his belt, over 50 playoff games, and was a dynamic skater with lightning speed.
But also on Thursday, Setoguchi referenced the player he was last year — a guy that showed up to the Winnipeg Jets last fall under-prepared (physically and mentally), was eventually demoted to a healthy scratch, and was turned loose in the off-season.
Now, at 27 and thrown a life-preserver by the Calgary Flames this summer, Setoguchi is determined to return to his old form.
And realizes this might be his last chance.
“Just getting back to the fitness level I was at,” explained the right-winger, who arrived noticeably more muscular (the result of a strict dieting regime this summer) at WinSport to check in for his medicals. “That killer mentality, that killer instinct I used to have. It’s something I might have lost the last couple years.
“Sometimes you need to get to the bottom of the barrel before you realize this could be it for you.”
Bottom of the barrel, rock bottom, whatever you want to call it, Setoguchi hit it last year.
Struggling with the Jets, he managed only one assist during his final 14 games of the year (11 goals and 27 points in 75 games) and took a personal leave during the final two games.
Setoguchi owned up to his mistakes of the 2013-14 season.
“You have all these high expectations going into a new city and I wasn’t prepared, personally,” he said. “My game wasn’t ready to go. I wasn’t in the best physical condition. On top of it all, I had a not-so-good start and it was just a downward spiral. There was a lot of negativity that crept into my mind and my game.
“From there, it was tough to get back to being a positive, up-beat kid, and to be happy.”
The quiet off-season was painful — until Flames general manager Brad Treliving called.
“That’s kind of where I realized, this summer coming into free agency, that it’s going to be tough to get a job unless you change the way you are and become more of a professional,” Setoguchi said. “Like I said, get back to where I was and be happy.”
When healthy and at his best, Setoguchi is shifty and quick, which, in a perfect world, would be a slick addition on the Flames right-wing.
Time will tell between the on-ice portion of training camp begins Friday at WinSport with scrimmages and practices. Meanwhile, the team’s first game is on Sunday (a split-squad event against the Edmonton Oilers at the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place).
There is plenty of competition to crack the Flames lineup and it won’t be easy, but Setoguchi is up for it.
“I’m excited to be ready to go, the start of Day 1, as opposed to working from behind,” he said. “My mental state is definitely a lot better than it’s been. It’s the best I’ve felt in years and hopefully it transfers over on the ice.”